STAGS HIT SEVEN AT ST BLAZEY
St Blazey 2 - 7 Mansfield Town
St Blazey: Harrington 37 mins, Holmes OG 46.
Stags: Larkin 2 mins, Tate 8, Corden (pen) 13, Neil 21, Lloyd 38, Zaccarius 65, 82.
Attendance: approx 110 (approx 15 from Mansfield)
Thursday 8 July 2004
Report by Martin Shaw at St Blazey
The Stags opened the new season with a first pre-season friendly at the top Cornish side St Blazey last night. The previous day's extraordinarily bad weather had abated and it was immediately obvious that the pitch was in superb condition. As I arrived the Stags were warming up on the pitch, with the first team on one side of the pitch and the youth team on the other. Two trialists were with the first team: Chris Tate, the former Orient striker, sporting a pony tail, and Alex Neil, former Barnsley midfielder. Adam Eaton was missing from the players I expected to see. Rhys Day of course had not traveled with the squad, as he is yet to sign a new contract.
It transpired that Mansfield used the game as 3 periods of 30 minutes, with almost a completely different side in each period.
Opening period 0-30 minutes:
Team: Pilkington, Buxton (right back), Artell, Dimech, Keith Curle (left back), Neil (right midfield), Curtis, Williamson, Corden, Larkin, Tate.
The major surprise of the opening 30 minutes was to see manager Keith Curle starting the game, and playing at left back.
The Stags took the lead on two minutes. Williamson found Larkin on the right with a great 40 yard pass. Larkin motored down the right cutting in slightly towards goal, and then blasted a cross-come-shot, which the keeper fumbled over his head and somehow the ball dropped just inside the far post. It was a goal reminiscent of Larkin's effort at Boston last season.
The home side had what turned out to be a rare attack in the opening period, on 5 minutes earning a free-kick just outside the box, which was placed just wide of the post. Two minutes later Corden put in a fine cross from the left, which was headed over his own bar by a defender.
The Stags were two up on 8 minutes. Alex Neil played a through ball to Williamson, who crossed to Curtis. Curtis's first time shot was blocked, but only as far as on-trial Chris Tate, who fired a shot just under the bar. Two minutes later Williamson put in another good cross, this time from the left, which just evaded Neil's outstretched boot.
On 13 minutes it was 3-0. Curtis found Corden with a good pass, who in turn found Larkin, whose cross from the right was handled by a defender inside the area. The referee immediately pointed for a penalty. In a scene rather different to the last penalty he took, Corden stepped up and buried his kick just inside the right hand post giving the keeper no chance. On 17 minutes Corden played an excellent ball over the square defence, for Neil to run onto. The trialist got himself into a good position but from just outside the box, with the keeper coming to meet him, Neil chipped his shot over the bar.
On 21 minutes it was 4-0. Larkin found Williamson, who played a fine square ball to Alex Neil, who easily beat the keeper from 16 yards.
30 minutes: St Blazey 0 Mansfield Town 4
It had been a very impressive opening by the Stags. They played fine, flowing football and cut the home side apart every time they strode forward. Alex Neil had been particularly impressive on the right side of midfield, showing a good turn of pace. Curtis, Williamson and Corden all played very well in midfield. Williamson was very creative, while Curtis was dominating. Corden gave the home right back a nightmare down the left wing. Meanwhile Larkin looked sharp up front. Chris Tate looked a little disappointing. The defence had virtually nothing to do and certainly wasn't tested. Keith Curle didn't have anything to do and was a virtual spectator at left back.
Middle period 30-60 minutes:
Team: Youth Teamer (YT), Keith Curle (right back), John-Baptiste, Buxton (central defence), YT (left back), Lloyd, MacKenzie, Murray, Tom Curle (left midfield), Hankey, Tate.
At the end of the first 30 minute period, the Stags took off the whole team apart from Keith Curle, Buxton and Tate. Keith Curle moved to right back, Buxton moved the central defence. Keith Curle's son Tom Curle came into the left side of midfield, making it the first time that I can think of that the father and son have played together in the team. The appearance of Adam Murray, back in a Stags shirt, was a massive boost.
On 37 minutes St Blazey pulled a goal back. Keith Curle gave away possession, which led to Alex John-Baptiste committing a foul on the edge of his area. Home midfielder Justin Harrington fired a fine free kick over the wall and just inside the near post, beating a Stags young keeper. It reminded me of Cambridge's equalizer at Field Mill last season, and just as the kick was about to be taken, I thought: the Stags should have someone on the near post!
The Stags made it 5-1 on 38 minutes. Youth Team player of the year Callum Lloyd dispossessed a defender with a great tackle, 25 yards from goal. He strode forward and fired home from 16 yards, just inside the right post.
On 43 minutes, Keith Curle came off to be replaced by a Youth Teamer.
Half time 1-5
The Stags made one further change at half time, with a Youth Teamer replacing the slightly disappointing Chris Tate.
On 46 minutes, St Blazey pulled a goal back to make it 2-5. Stags Youth Team player Holmes deflected a shot, which seemed to be going wide, past his own keeper. On 52 minutes, Tom Curle somehow managed to miss: with the keeper nowhere, his shot struck the last defender. On 55 minutes, Dean Hankey had a glorious chance as he was through on goal, but with only the keeper to beat, he scuffed his shot over the bar.
60 minutes: St Blazey 2 Mansfield Town 5
It had been a reasonable middle period for the Stags, but they had actually lost the period 2-1. Murray didn't look at his best and lost a few tackles in midfield. MacKenzie never really got into the game. John-Baptiste looked solid and dependable as ever in central defence.
Final period 60-90 minutes:
Team: Youth Team.
At the end of the middle 30 minute period, the Stags took off 9 further players and now played entirely a Youth Team.
The Stags made it 6-2 on 65 minutes. Hayden Zaccarius scored an excellent goal: a great finish after a skilful run down the right. On 72 minutes, it was nearly another as a Stags Youth Teamer stuck the inside of the left post.
Then Jake Buxton returned to the pitch on 73 minutes, in place of an injured Youth Team player. On 77 minutes, the Stags had a free kick from a similar position to St Blazey's which they scored in the first half. But the Stags bent their free-kick just over the angle. On 79 minutes, there was nearly a goal for the home side, when a cross into the Stags box was shanked over his own bar by Jake Buxton.
The Stags made it 7-2 on 82 minutes. Hayden Zaccarius scored his second, when he ran onto a through ball to finish superbly into the left hand corner of the net from 18 yards.
Final score: St Blazey 2 Mansfield Town 7
The match ended in very dark conditions. It was odd that the floodlights were not used for the last 20 minutes or so. St Blazey were disappointingly poor. I was reliably informed by Devon Stag and his girlfriend, who kept me excellent company throughout the game, that the home side had been considerably better than this in the corresponding pre-season friendly last season, which the Stags won 3-1.
It was a good workout for the entire Stags squad: first team and youth team. It was slightly disappointing not to see a bit more of the first team players. However most of the first teamers were extremely impressive for the 30 minutes they were on the pitch. All in all, an enjoyable evening, that helps to remove the painful memories of Cardiff that have remained throughout the last 5.5 weeks. One abiding memory was Keith Curle, whilst playing at right back, and whilst the game was continuing, giving a tactical talk to one of the Youth Team players. The Stags return home today (Friday) after their four day trip to Cornwall.
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